NoPeanutsPlease is an independent blog.

All views, opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by any other party.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It Takes A Village - Teachers

I am going to start a new series of articles outline the impact that food allergies have on various people in the community. "It Takes A Village" will provide stories and thoughts from others in the community that may not have an allergic child but at times are responsible for the care of children that do have severe allergies.

It is important that parents of allergic children consider the feelings and apprehensions of others during the process of educating and communicating their child's allergy condition to caregivers, other parents, teachers, etc. To do that it is important to understand their perspective.

As you know many schools have instituted policies and procedures to prevent and address allergic children's challenges. The first instance of "It Takes A Village" is focused on Teachers.

- - -

It Takes A Village - a Teacher's Perspective
Source: A Primary & Elementary School Teacher's First Hand Account

I was teaching over a span of 25 years in primary and elementary schools. Every September, forms were sent home so parents could give an update on each child’s status regarding address, emergency contacts, medical issues, etc. I made a copy of each completed form for future reference and sent the originals to the office to be placed in the students’ files.

Over my first fifteen years of teaching, I paid particular attention to health issues such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, and diabetes. I always made note of the many allergies that were listed on the forms but I didn’t have any students with severe allergies. At least, I don’t think I did. No parent ever came forward to tell me that an allergy was severe. There was no mention at staff meetings that we had a child in our school with a severe allergy.

Within the past ten years, however, I have seen an increase in the number of children who have severe allergies. It is now the responsibility of each teacher to become familiar with all children in the school who have a severe allergy. Early in the school year, the staff meets with the school nurse who demonstrates the proper procedure for using the Epi-Pen. She informs us which children in the school have severe allergies. Posters and pertinent information about each of these children is posted in the staff room.

We have had several children in our schools with severe allergies to peanuts. Our school does not have a school-wide ban on food containing peanuts. There is a ban only in the specific classroom of the student affected by the allergy. In consultation with the parents, the school administrator may also ban ice-cream in these classrooms.

One year, when I was teaching kindergarten, I had a child who had a severe allergy to fish. I met with the mother and she told me what procedures to follow if an allergic attack occurred. She told me to administer benedryl at the first sign of watery eyes and to take the child to the hospital if I used the Epi-Pen. I was to call her at work immediately and she would meet us at the hospital. There was a “No Fish” policy in our school and I have to admit that sometimes there were slips where someone brought a tuna fish sandwich or heated up fish in the microwave in the school cafeteria.

This was the first time I had a child in my classroom with a severe allergy. It made me nervous. I kept a close eye on the little boy all the time. I talked about him in the staffroom and I let every staff member know where I kept the Epi-Pen. On one occasion, the child was completing a cutting activity when I noticed that his eyes were watery. He told me that he poked his eye with his scissors but I was too afraid to take his word for it. I immediately administered the benedryl and reported it to the office. Mom was called and arrived in no time. It was a false alarm but a nice trial run for me in the meantime. The child never had an allergic reaction in the classroom and I never ever had to use the Epi-pen.

I feel that it is up to the administrator of the school as well as the visiting public nurse to educate teachers and other parents about allergies. When the administrators take the situation serious, teachers will also take it serious. You can be sure that the children’s classroom teacher and the co workers in adjacent classrooms are well aware of the allergy situation. But does every teacher in the school take time to meet and greet these children and familiarize themselves with the situation? At some point, every teacher in the school will be doing lunch duty and so every one of them has to take some responsibility. In all my years teaching, I do not recall one incident where a child had a severe allergic reaction and the Epi-Pen had to be used. But we must realize that one incident is too many.

No comments: